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Jul 14, 2014|
Thousands of jails across the United States are struggling to cope with mentally ill inmates, a new report shows.
Many of the 3,300 jails across the US have seen a rise in the number of inmates with serious mental illnesses, most arrested for non-violent crimes, the Associated Press reports.
The report says some facilities even fail to prevent prisoners from harming themselves.
Experts have pointed to the rising number of such inmates after states began closing psychiatric hospitals in the 1970s.
The Associated Press has reported at least 11 suicides in New York City jails over the past five years.
Also last month, federal officials blamed 15 suicides on deplorable conditions for mentally ill inmates in Los Angeles County jails.
Officials say the recent sharp rise in the prison population has complicated the task of screening for mental illness, managing medications and ensuring inmate safety.
US jails hold about 731,000 people, less than half the 1.57 million in state and federal prisons. But last year, jails booked in 11.7 million people - more than 19 times the number of new prison inmates.
''Jails are churning people,'' says Henry J Steadman, a consultant to government agencies on how courts and correctional facilities deal with people with mental illnesses.
Researchers found in the 1980s that about 6 percent of inmates showed signs of serious mental illnesses, but the figure rose to 17 percent in 2009.
The number of those with serious mental illnesses surpasses 20 percent in some jails, according to AP.